VARIOUS business groups and company executives have called on employees to return to the workplace, saying that doing so will help the country’s economic recovery.
In a joint statement released on Monday, the groups along with business heads said the economy’s recovery starts with the presence of employees in business centers as more relaxed restrictions are implemented and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases continue to drop.
“We now look forward to heightened business activity which will benefit the entire nation and spur its return to economic wellness. The path to recovery, we aver, begins with the presence in the business and commercial centers of our country’s workers,” they said.
“As employees return to the business centers, it is also hoped that confidence nationwide will improve and help restore industries displaced by the pandemic,” they added.
Signatories to the joint statement include Ayala Land, Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Bernard Vincent O. Dy; Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Association, Inc. National President Noel M. Cariño; Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. President Henry Lim Bon Liong; Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines President Michael Arcatomy H. Guarin; Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Ma. A. Concepcion III; Management Association of the Philippines President Alfredo E. Pascual; Megaworld Corp. Chief Strategy Officer Kevin L. Tan; Philippine Constructors Association President Wilfredo L. Decena; Philippine Retailers Association President Rosemarie B. Ong; Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry President George T. Barcelon; Resto PH President Eric Teng; Robinsons Land Corp. President Frederick D. Go; and SM Prime Holdings, Inc. President Jeffrey C. Lim.
The business groups and executives also highlighted that all establishments can already operate on-site at 100% capacity in areas covered by Alert Level 1. Recently, Malacañang announced that Metro Manila and 47 other areas will be placed under Alert Level 1 from March 16 to 31.
“We are pleased and relieved that with the vaccination rate in Metro Manila now at 70.4% and nationwide at 57.1% and with new COVID-19 cases at a very low 598 cases nationwide as of March 17, we now enjoy our current Alert Level 1. This allows free interzonal and intrazonal travel regardless of age and comorbidities,” they said.
“Two years of the COVID-19 pandemic have drastically curtailed economic activity in our country’s business districts and other commercial centers leading to a -9.6% gross domestic product (GDP) contraction in 2020. Consequently, the revival of business activity in general, and key economic centers in particular, are now viewed as a key milestone towards recovery,” they said.
The business groups and executives also urged the public to go out of their homes while still following minimum public health standards.
“Following the boost in vaccination rates in November last year, we saw the increase of mall foot traffic to as high as 63% of its pre-COVID figure and fast-food traffic count at 78% of its 2019 numbers. Metro Rail Transit (MRT) ridership today is at 243,845 or 69% of its 2019 figure over the same period,” they said.
“Economic momentum has been established and we are now within easier reach of the prosperity we all enjoyed in 2019. Fully occupied business districts and commercial centers indeed represent a welcome and collective milestone for the country,” they added.
One of the sectors that will be affected by the push for on-site work is registered information technology and business process outsourcing (IT-BPO) companies.
Under Fiscal Incentives Review Board (FIRB) Resolution 19-21, IT-BPO firms located inside economic zones are permitted to have a work-from-home (WFH) arrangement of up to 90% of its total workforce until the end of March while still enjoying tax incentives.
However, the FIRB denied the proposal of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) to extend the WFH arrangement of IT-BPO firms without losing fiscal incentives until Sept. 12, citing the country’s high vaccination rates. PEZA has been pushing for the extension of the WFH arrangement for registered IT-BPO firms due to high fuel prices. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave